Five Mistakes to Avoid in Your Professional Profile Photos

Scrolling through the People You Might Know section of LinkedIn I can't help noticing that some people have profile pictures that could damage their credibility.

Some are clearly out of focus, underexposed, taken from too far away, badly cropped, squashed out of proportion or with other issues that are easily avoidable today. Back in the day when LinkedIn was first created in 2003 there were no iPhones and not everyone had a digital camera, but today there are not really any excuses. And if someone really doesn't have access to any sort of digital camera they must have a friend or colleague who could take a quick photo and send it to them by email for upload

Your professional profile photo on LinkedIn doesn't need to be perfect or even great, but at least you should avoid the most obvious mistakes starting with these top five problems I see scrolling through the images in People You Might Know:

UNDEREXPOSED PHOTO. How people achieve this in the 2010s I do not know, but a surprising number of LinkedInners manage to underexpose their profile photo, making it so dark that they are almost unrecognizable. If your camera is that bad then try taking the picture using daylight, going outdoors, preferably on a cloudy day. Getting extra light will do more than solve the exposure problem, it will also make the photo sharper, avoiding another problem, the blurry photo.

BLURRY PHOTO. I suspect that most of the blurry photos were taken using a handheld camera or phone when there really isn't enough light, so the camera moves during the long exposure. There are two ways to avoid this. The first is simply to get more light, as explained above, the other is to use a tripod. If you are using a smartphone and you don't have a tripod try resting the camera firmly on a table and use the self timer while you take the picture. But more light is easier.

SQUASHED HEAD PHOTO. How so many people end up with their head either squashed or elongated is another mystery, too, unless they have been resizing an image using a mouse but without locking the aspect ratio between height and width. Minor errors are noticeable only to an expert, but I see many photographs where the proportions are obviously non human. When you upload a photo make sure that it looks ok before you upload it and check again after the upload. If your head is distorted and you don't know why ask a friend with more expertise in photography or image manipulation to help.

PHOTO TOO SMALL. When you upload a very small photo file to LinkedIn it is presented as a tiny photo with a wide border. There is no camera takes a picture that small so if it happens you must be using a photo that has been reduced in size -- possibly a thumbnail generated by another site. Don't use these very small files. Always use the largest file you have for the upload unless it is some extremely large professional format, the kind that could never be sent by email. Very small photos with borders make you look very small and insignificant compared to other people, so this is another problem to avoid.

PHOTO TILTED TOO MUCH. There was a time when on social sites like Myspace, Friendster and Facebook it was a thing to have your profile photo inclined about 45 degrees. Some people still do that on Facebook but it tends to look out of place on LinkedIn, where most pictures are fairly upright. Clearly if you are looking for a creative job people are going to give you more space here, but if your career aspirations involve mainstream business work then I would suggest not tilting quite so much.

There is, of course, another option that is even worse than all of these: not having a photo. When you leave a blank square or use an image of something else you make other users suspicious. Some fake and spammy accounts have no profile photo because they don't have a photo to show. You might have other reasons for hiding your face, but other users have no way to tell the difference between someone who is extremely shy and someone who doesn't really exist. Avoid this option if you possibly can.

Remember that most people in the world will never meet you face to face. In many cases all they know about how you look comes from your profile photo. It's more important than you think. Any one of the five common mistakes above could cost you a job. Don't screw it up.

If you would like more practical advice about making better profile photos read also How to Make Photos for Professional Profiles

More about professional networking

There's much more about professional networking in my book Payforward Networking on the Amazon Kindle bookstore. There will also be a paperback edition soon.

Lectures, Workshops, Coaching, Writing

Andrew Hennigan does lectures, workshops, one-to-one coaching and writing about social media and other communication topics. You can contact him by phone on 0046 730 894 475 or 0033 6 79 61 42 81, by email at conseil@andrewhennigan.com or through his website http://andrewhennigan.com. You can also hear more about topics like this through his Twitter account http://twitter.com/andrewhennigan

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